After Hamas Decade, Gaza Short on Freedom, Jobs, Electricity

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) -
Hamas, Decade, Gaza, Short, Freedom, Jobs, Electricity
Palestinians, who get only several hours of electricity a day, sit around a fire outside their home in Gaza City in Jan. 2016. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa, File)

Grim records mark the 10th anniversary of Hamas rule in Gaza — the longest-ever daily electricity and water cuts, 60 percent youth unemployment, and a rising backlog of thousands waiting for a rare chance to exit the blockaded territory.

Unable to offer a remedy, the Islamic terrorist group has been doubling down on oppression. It has jailed the few who dare complain publicly, including the young organizers of a street protest against power cuts and an author who wrote that “life is only pleasant for Hamas leaders.”

Polls show almost half the people would leave altogether if they could, but that support for the group is steady at around a third. With potential opponents crushed, there is no obvious path to regime change.

Meanwhile, for most of Gaza’s two million people, life is bound to get worse.

The international isolation of Hamas will likely continue — and with it the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the terror group seized Gaza in June 2007.

A new political program that Hamas hoped would mollify the West and Arab nations instead underscored its ideological rigidity; while softer in tone, the manifesto reaffirms a call to armed struggle and the creation of an Islamic state in the entire area, including what is now Israel.

There are also signs that one of Hamas’ remaining foreign backers, Qatar, is in trouble. On Monday, four Arab countries cut ties with the Gulf nation, in part over its support of Islamist groups, such as Hamas. Qatar reportedly asked several Hamas leaders-in-exile to leave.

Hamas also faces financial pressure by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces it drove from Gaza a decade ago. Fed up with failed reconciliation efforts, the West Bank-based Abbas has warned he would cut more Gaza subsidies, such as electricity payments.

Local writer Abdullah Abu Sharekh landed in jail after writing that “people are not steadfast.”

“They cannot do anything because you (Hamas) rule Gaza with iron and fire … you brought Gaza back to the Middle Ages,” he wrote.

After his release Saturday, he wrote that he was deprived of sleep for five days and forced to stand for long periods or sit on small chairs.

Stirrings of unrest are quashed.

A trio of unemployed friends in their 20s from the town of Beit Lahiya said Hamas has harassed them since they mobilized thousands in a rare street protest against chronic power cuts in January. They said they’ve been detained, beaten and repeatedly summoned to security compounds.

Activist Mohammed al-Taluli, 25, said pressure built again several weeks ago as daily rolling power cuts worsened, with four hours of electricity followed by outages of 14 to 18 hours. Al-Taluli said he and his friends received death threats to deter them from protesting, and that it was effective because no one can protect them from Hamas.

“People are asking us every day if we are planning a new demonstration,” al-Taluli said, speaking in a room decorated with photos of revolutionary idols like Che Guevara. “But … we are afraid.”